A Look At WAC Football Teams
Friday - August 26, 2005
This is the first of a two-part lead-in to the football season.
Another season about to begin, analysts and pundits have sharpened their pencils, anxiously awaiting kickoff. The Western Athletic Conference has shifted again with four members departing and three signing on. Here’s a look at the 2005 edition of the wacky WAC.
1) Boise State. Until somebody beats the Broncos, they’re my pick to win it. It starts with the coaching. Dan Hawkins is 44-7 in four seasons. If you buy into the Bronco program, they find a way to use you. If not, you’re gone. The Broncos had all of its players stay at school over the summer to work out together.
That’s typical Boise State — average talent that overachievers. First they formation you to death and then they execute. Jared Zabransky is the best returning QB in the conference, Lee Marks and Antwaun Porter are above average in the running game, and Drisan James is an excellent receiver.
Defensively they’re aggressive, responsible and particularly strong at linebacker. Check out the opener against Georgia Sept 3.
2) Fresno State. The first AP poll has the Bulldogs at No. 24. Look at who comes back and it’s a wonder they’re not ranked higher. Head coach Pat Hill produced a 9-3 team last year that was incredibly strong at start and finish, but suffered a midseason slump more curious than Altoids. The larder is so stocked that Fresno State needs a second refrigerator in the garage.
The offense features the three best running backs in the league. UCLA transfer Wendel Mathis had 995 yards in his first season at Fresno, Bryson Sumlin is a horse, and if Dwayne Wright is 100 percent after rebounding from knee surgery, he’s the best of the lot. Jermaine Jamison and Joe Fernandez are back at wideout and the offensive line returns four starters.
Defensively, Fresno is extremely experienced, returning six of the seven starters on the back end. Up front Garret McIntyre is a beast, Fresno needs the other D linemen to step up if they’re going to get to the Promised Land.
3) Louisiana Tech. I’m the only one outside of Ruston picking the Bulldogs this high, but somebody will exceed expectations, and I think it will be La. Tech. Last year they finished 6- 6, but that record included losses to Miami, Tennessee and Auburn.
They probably have the best pure athletes in the conference, QB Matt Kubik, at 6 feet 3 inches, 210 pounds, is a big, strong kid and an accurate passer. The receiving corps is excellent led by burner Johnny Holland, but Eric Newman, Seneca Chambers and Freddie King are all speedy and accomplished. In the backfield Ryan Moats has moved on to the NFL, but Mark Dillard, Frederick Franklin and Patrick Johnson will be just fine behind an experienced offensive line that averages 305 pounds.
Defensively, the Bulldogs enjoy excellent team speed led by the best outside linebacker in the conference in Byron Santiago.
And the schedule is favorable with Boise State and Hawaii having to go to Ruston.
4) Hawaii. The Warriors are hard to figure. Last year they lost to Florida Atlantic in the opener, dropped five of their first seven, got pasted twice on national television and then won their last four in dramatic fashion. And that team had experience!
Now it’s an offense with all new starters at the skill positions and a quarterback position that may not be settled until after the first two games. Who will be the next Chad Owens? Maybe Davone Bess or Jason Ferguson. Michael Washington perhaps? At least the offensive line is nearly intact.
On the other side of the ball defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville says defensive players must be hunters. Make that big game hunters with SC and Michigan State to open. The defensive line is solid — Mel Purcell and Ikaika Alama- Francis should wreak havoc off the edge. The linebackers are tough and smart. Are they fast enough to catch Reggie Bush and Co.? The back end looks good, and the expectations are the highest in years.
Circle Sept. 24 — it’s the most important game of the season, the first conference game against Idaho. Win it and good things are possible, lose it and it will be faster to introduce the fans than the players when the Warriors return to Aloha Stadium in October.
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